Authors Recommend Ways to Improve Latinas' Perinatal Mental Health During COVID-19 Crisis

April 21, 2021

Pregnant Latina with clouds behind her

WASHINGTON, DC (April 21, 2021) — Experiencing anxiety during pregnancy is associated with pregnancy complications, and Latinas today face many stressors related to COVID-19 as well as pre-existing racism and intolerance. A new commentary in Women's Health Issues recommends ways for clinical practice, research, and policy to better support the mental health of pregnant and postpartum Latinas.

The commentary was published in Women’s Health Issues, the official journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, which is based at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues explain that high rates of COVID-19 cases and pandemic-related job losses in Latino communities can exacerbate the ongoing immigrant and minority-related stressors affecting perinatal Latinas. They note that research has found a relationship between immigration policies and anxiety in Latinas, and that some communities report fearing deportation more than COVID-19.

The authors’ recommendations for clinical practice include using culturally appropriate communication—both one-on-one and over social media—to provide information about anxiety symptoms and resources. To allow for research into the combined effects of psychosocial, cultural, sociopolitical, and socioeconomic stressors, they suggest that the National Institutes of Health and other funders direct grants to investigators who have records of working with Latino communities; they also highlight the importance of examining different subgroups of Latinas, rather than treating them as a monolith.

The commentary’s policy recommendations include suggestions for improving health care as well as stressors in the larger environment. Lara-Cinisomo and her colleagues urge policymakers to direct additional funding toward bilingual and diversity-trained professionals, and toward increasing access to telemedicine and language services. They also advise officials to improve workplace health and safety (noting that structural racism leaves both Black and Latino workers disproportionately likely to work in jobs with high risks of COVID-19 exposure), halt deportations, and reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“As the Biden-Harris administration begins implementing its policy priorities, we urge all elected officials to provide much-needed resources to clinicians working directly with perinatal Latinas, researchers working to understand the effects of the pandemic on these women, and the perinatal Latinas who are fighting to keep themselves and their families safe on all fronts,” the authors conclude.

“Improving mental health for perinatal and postpartum Latinas has long been an important public health priority, and COVID-19 has made it even more pressing,” said Amita Vyas, Editor-in-Chief of Women's Health Issues and associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH. “This commentary helps move the work forward by offering concrete recommendations for clinicians, researchers, funders, and elected officials.”

Recommendations for clinical practice, research, and policy to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on anxiety symptoms in immigrant and U.S.-born Latina mothers” has been published online as an article in press and will appear in a future issue of Women’s Health Issues.